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Gratitude, Every Day and All Year Round

Gratitude, Every Day and All Year Round

By Vignetta Charles, PhD | December 8, 2016
Chief Science Officer, ETR

I love gratitude. I try to get a little of it into my life every day. Here’s why.

First, gratitude grounds me in something positive and constructive. It’s so easy to get mired in the details of our daily lives. Like a breath of fresh air, a break for gratitude can get me back into the moment.

Second, it helps me extend and expand my feelings, bringing them to the people and relationships around me. This is different from the thank you’s we might say for objects we’re given, or even things people do for us. Those are sort of transactional exchanges—you gave me this, I offer you thanks. For me, gratitude is more about the essence of a person: I am grateful for who you are, and the positive outcomes you bring to my life.

Third, gratitude is a pause. I have to stop for a moment to be grateful in these ways. That moment gives me clarity and presence.

Good for the Organization

I also believe gratitude is a good organizational practice. At ETR, nothing we accomplish could be achieved without the support of our colleagues, clients and partners. We stand on the shoulders of their fine work. We move in new directions through the inspirations of their vision. We find a better path through their guidance and creativity. We fund our work through their generous support.

And that’s why we started our annual tradition of a gratitude post on our blog. We will never be able to thank everyone who has played a role in our ability to serve, but it does give us a chance to thank a few of the year’s outstanding stars.

A Fabulous Convocation: The Kirby Summit

Thanks to the support of The David and Lucile Packard Foundation, The Grove Foundation and The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, ETR was able to host the first Kirby Summit last February. This assembly brought together leading experts from across the nation in two diverse arenas: sexual and reproductive health, and neurodevelopmental science.

It was marvelous to hear the insights that developed over the course of the summit from two fields that, frankly, haven’t spent enough time talking amongst themselves. The dialogue and earnest debates beautifully honored the values of science and mentorship that were so important to our friend and colleague, Doug Kirby.

Impressive Interns

In another nod to Doug Kirby’s powerful legacy, ETR hosts the annual Kirby Summer Internship program. In 2016, we sponsored two extraordinary young professionals, Melissa Donze (pursuing an MPH at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health) and Emily Waterman (PhD candidate at Penn State). In years to come, we are certain these women will be notable leaders in the field.

They each wrote a post for our blog, too. Melissa talked about how an early career as a policy advocate led to her interest in building effective health programs. Emily described some innovative methods to recruit young adults into health studies. Good reads if you missed them!

Community Leaders Who Transform the World

ETR’s Jacqueline Peters became a WILLOW trainer this year. This is a social-skills building intervention for women living with HIV. Last April, she delivered her first training of trainers for the program and met some extraordinary women in the process. We’re grateful for the leadership they are putting into practice. We were also delighted that three of the participants contributed posts to ETR’s blog.

Please take a look at the uplifting posts from Alesia Miller, Christina Murphy and Vanessa Johnson about why they chose to work with the WILLOW program.

Outstanding Organizations

We’ve begun beautiful partnerships with three organizations this year—Georgia Campaign for Adolescent Power & Potential, Mississippi First and Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts. Each of these organizations has “leant” us a trainer to join our Professional Development team and provide stellar PD services to our field. Thanks to Brandy Barnett from GCAPP, Emily Feher from MS First, and Teagan Drawbridge from PPLM (who, by the way, also contributed a Facilitation Quick Tip to our collection).

Our research team is grateful for our ongoing partnership with Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA) Division of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine. The research from this partnership is helping to prevent unintended repeat births among adolescents. We offer particular thanks to Mona Desai, Leslie Clark, Frances Cordero and Vivian Okonta—researchers who bring the best standards of integrity to their work, and seek outcomes that will elevate the practice of care for adolescents.

Our colleagues at Saint Paul Public Schools are collaborating with us on an evaluation of the FLASH curriculum. They have all been so supportive and helpful in this effort. Through their commitment, we have achieved admirably high parent consent return rates. And our St. Paul, Minnesota-based data collectors were also amazing, collecting baseline data in ten high schools in record time!

Joining in with a great many people and organizations working in the field of sexual and reproductive health, we are grateful to Cecile Richards and the organization she heads, Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Cecile models for all of us how to stay standing and walk into the storm (even the hurricane!), with strength, grace and dignity. We appreciate the way she fights for the reproductive rights of all people. We, and millions of others, are also thankful for the work of all of the individuals at PP affiliates across the nation.

And we are grateful for our evolving research-practice partnership with one of our favorite organizations, the Watsonville tech incubator Digital NEST.

Author! Author!

We’ve had a range of informative, engaging posts on our blog over the past year, some from ETR staffers and many from our partners in the field. We appreciate every individual and organization that has contributed to make our blog the useful resource it is. Thanks, authors!

Trainer! Trainer!

We’ve got a newly energized cadre of trainers in our professional development group and they are, in a word, amazing. It is a diverse group, including ETR staff as well as others recruited from around the nation. All are genetically wired to care about and embrace best practices in motivating learners. They can get downright giddy about bringing research-based practices to life!

Heartfelt thanks to Brandy Barnett, Teagan Drawbridge, Michael Everett, Joan Singson, Kay Todd, LaShay Harvey Jones, Emily Feher, Gina Lepore, BA Laris, Pam Drake, Rebecca Shemis, Suzanne Schrag, Cody Sigel, Tracy Wright, Jacqueline Peters, Stephanie Guinosso and Susan Telljohann.

Inspiring Workmates

What can I say? Fabulous people work at ETR, and I could share something impressive about every one of them. Here are some of the people who garnered special notice from their workmates this past year.

Bekah Cohen: Colleagues call her “a bright light in the Oakland office!” She brings joy, laughter and her kind, supportive personality into everything she does. She’s always willing to help. And—very important—she’s ready to go for a coffee or hot chocolate anytime!

Shannon Campe: Shannon is helping us build our research-practice partnership with Watsonville tech incubator Digital NEST. Creating such collaborations is time-consuming and labor intensive. Her dedication to this effort is helping us learn more about how to build these kinds of partnerships. That’s as important as our research design and outcomes.

Lou Ann Lyon: Remarkable perseverance! That’s what it’s taken for Lou Ann to bring her innovative research ideas into grant proposal form, and then win two new National Science Foundation (NSF) grants to support that work. Both will make important contributions to issues affecting computer science education and the tech workforce.

Eloy Ortiz: Eloy has taken the lead on recruiting 25 community colleges for our Career Technical Education study. This requires persistence, skill in relationship-building, and a thick skin when faced with rejections. His willingness to do this quiet, behind-the-scenes work will contribute significantly to the success of the project.

Pam Anderson: Thanks to Pam for so smoothly taking on the Principal Investigator role on her NSF-funded study of how romantic relationships influence the pathways of Career Technical Education computing students at community colleges. This project is an example of the important research that can happen when we at ETR work across content areas—in this instance, the intersection of diversity in IT with sexual and reproductive health.

Beverly Iniguez-Conrique: Beverly doesn’t just bring great dedication and integrity to her work. She has an engaging enthusiasm for research and a positive perspective that keeps her workmates feeling upbeat. She’s willing to leap in and help when an extra hand is needed, and she inspires us all to be more present and productive in what we do.

Marcia Quackenbush: As our “Blog Curator Extraordinaire,” Marcia ensures that the ETR blog is filled with incredible content from ETRians and our partners. She encourages all of us to think (and write) about our work, not simply to inform our readers about our mission-driven impact, but also so we can re-inspire ourselves and each other. She gets us writing about how our work connects with our personal and professional passions, which is one of the reasons we have an outstanding blog.

Julie Fasolas: Julie, in a word, does just about everything. We appreciate her humor, her commitment, and the way she manages to bring together efficiency and creativity to make meetings fun as well as productive. One grateful colleague noted, “Julie helps make sense of my hundreds of receipts and keeps payments and gift card systems for research participants working like clock-work!”

Wonderful Customers and Exemplary Customer Service

Our sales team has spent this year crossing the nation through rain, snow, sleet, hail and flight delays. They’ve met with customers at their offices or one of the many conferences ETR has attended. Speaking with people on the phone is great, but there’s nothing like meeting someone face-to-face. At the TPP conference in Baltimore, APHA in Denver, AHPERD conferences all over the place and plenty of other meetups, we’ve had a chance to hear about the good work people are doing. We are proud to play a part in helping them meet the health needs of their states, programs and communities.

Thanks to that team for keeping the flame burning—especially John Henry Ledwith, Nancy Gonzalez-Caro and Erin McCarthy. Thanks also to our sales associates working the phones here in the office. Lisa Edelman, Elisa Silva and Linda King rightfully share the title, “The Voice of ETR.”

We can only offer these services because we have great products. Laura Perkins, Laura Norvig, Suzanne Schrag and Charlene Foster put in countless hours to create and communicate about pamphlets, posters, curricula and all kinds of other resources that are making a difference in the health of our nation. And without our athletic and dedicated team in the warehouse and distribution—Shawn Del Carlo, Sean O’Neill, Jesus Ruelas and Tony Gaona—those resources would never go anywhere.

To Life!

Our entire organization has been lifted by the appearance of Baby Monae, new daughter of staffer Michael Everett and his husband, Aunsha Hall-Everett. Monae has joined a few teleconference meetings, and she even attended the recent U.S. Conference on AIDS meeting in Atlanta—she was the biggest attraction at ETR’s Community Impact Solutions booth! Her bright smile helps make everything seem a little bit better.

Moving the Mission Forward

Colleagues and partners like these make it possible for us to move our mission forward. Of course, this is not only true for ETR. This is the way of things throughout the non-profit world, the public health arena and the school health and health education professions.

It is inspiring to be among so many people working for the common good. I am grateful to you for the work you do. I am also grateful for the wonderful people and organizations that have become a part of ETR’s circle, and those who will join us in the future.


Vignetta Charles, PhD, is Chief Science Officer at ETR. You can reach her at


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